Words: Rob Harris Photos: Richard Seck
THE LONGEST DAY
Motoretta were true to their word, and shortly after we arrived, Jeremy – an unlucky Motoretta rep – showed up with a tray of coffees and a box of donuts.
In the next 30 minutes, Gary joined us, followed by Mr. Richard Szpin. Mr Szpin had eagerly contacted us when we originally announced the idea on CMG. The problem was that he did not have access to a scooter. As a writer for the Ontario based Ride On magazine we’d put him in touch with Honda Canada, who in turn had set him up with another Honda Ruckus for the ride.
A large and enthuthiastic Mr. Szpin showed up on a small and bog-standard Ruckus. Even Mr. Seck (who had secured another Ruckus, also courtesy of Honda Canada), had at least extended and softened the seat – thanks to a block of wood, some duct tape and an aftermarket air-cushion. Oh well, maybe he was making a point and going for the 1000 loonies…
With the first light of day illuminating some rather ominous clouds, a group of five MBs (one had failed to show, but I shall not embarrass Mr. Arthur Pidgeon by revealing his name) fired up their collective scooters and headed east out of Toronto …
Note – If you missed part 1, go here first.
04:55 hours – Motoretta Scooters, 514 College St, Toronto, On
With one no-show and five dopey-shows, scooter history was made as the first signs of morning light lit up ominous clouds. 800+ km of side-roads lay ahead of us, with a 24-hour window in which to complete them.
Dark apartments, a smattering of taxicabs, the occasional drunken clubber and a very tired Motoretta rep (Jeremy) were the only witnesses to the historic event.
04:59 hours (+ 4 mins, 1 km) – Spadina Avenue, Toronto
It starts to rain, and with a grand total of 1 km under our belts we stop to don waterproofs. Bobb lights up a cigarette and snarls that we’re going to be in big trouble at this rate.
05:40 hours (+ 45 mins, 22.5 kms) – Near Highway 2 and the 401
After a 10-minute wait and one dubious u-turn, we all reunite and settle in to a long stretch of Hwy 2 to Kingston.Our first near-disaster. Coming out of Toronto on Hwy 2 just short of the 401 entry, half the group turn off to keep on Hwy 2, half continue. Bobb – cigarette lit – calculates that we’re averaging a measly 30 km/h, which would mean a 27-hour ride ahead of us.
06:30 hours (+ 1 hour, 35 mins, 60 kms) – somewhere east of Oshawa
We finally get past Oshawa and the grind of suburbia with its mass of stoplights. The clouds are clearing after doing a great job of blocking out the early morning sun, and we’re really starting to get into a groove.
A look back in my mirrors sees a receding Mr. Szpin. He isn’t looking happy.
07:00 hours (+ 2 hours, 5 mins, 90 kms) – somewhere a bit further east of Oshawa
We stop for gas and amuse the attendant with the MBS Rally story. We’re feeling optimistic as we’re finally starting to get up to speed. Mr. Szpin doesn’t share the upswing in mood, declaring that the Ruckus is slow and uncomfortable and his back is hurting. He announces his official withdrawal from the Rally, but at least he tried.
Four riders hit the 2 again, with 180 kms/4 hours till Kingston and the ferry to Wolfe Island.
11:00 hours (+ 6 hours, 5 mins, 270 kms) – outskirts of Kingston
The outskirts of Kingston wrap around us after a rather enjoyable blast on the meandering Hwy 2. It’s good timing as we need to catch the ferry which departs hourly – on the half hour – the next being at 11:30. The option to carry on to the Thousand Islands crossing (if we missed the ferry) was dubious, as it not only adds 50 km to the trip, but is listed as an expressway and so probably illegal … never mind full of scary-fast cars.
So far we seem to be stopping every 75-100 km (1 1/2 to 2 hours) for a quick rest and gas stop – 100 km being the maximum range of the C70 and B-Whiz – although the Rucki still haven’t illuminated their reserve lights. Still, Bobb and Gary have both covered for this limitation with red 1 gallon gas cans strapped on where space allows. Average speed is a decent 45 km/h, which – if we can keep it up – would result in a 18 hour ride, hitting Toronto at 11 pm.
With 10 minutes till ferry departure, we have just enough time to grab some food from the Tim Horton’s around the corner. It’s the start of lunchtime, so the line-up is big, but the drive-through is empty and proves to be a quick way to stock-up. Bobb’s bike refuses to start and so he misses the chance to get some Timmies, but he says that he has his own supplies and plenty more cigarettes to smoke in the meantime.
12:30 hours (+ 7 hours, 35 mins, 290 kms) – US Border – Cape Vincent, New YorkWith sandwiches eaten and coffee on scooter floorboards, we take to the ferry and utilize the opportunity to renourish, stretch and contemplate the US part of the trip. A black helicopter circles overhead. Bobb lights up another cigarette. I realize that I have left my tinfoil hat at home.
After a short blast across the 11 km of Wolf Island we time it perfectly for the next ferry over to the US.
When we disembark, Peter Hoogeveen of Iron-butt/Blackfly 1600 fame is waiting to greet us. He and Bobb Todd are fellow endurance riders and friends and Peter decided to take a small diversion on his way from Montreal to Toronto to have a laugh at our expense.
13:00 hours (+ 8 hours, 5 mins, 291 kms) – leaving US Customs, NY
A strong headwind has started from the southwest, and for the next 100 km the speeds drop down from a heady 60 km/h to a frustrating 50 km/h. That’s at least two hours of an uncomfortable crouched position to minimize wind resistance.
Although my Ruckus adaptations are working well, the greater height means that I have a greater frontal area and greater drag. In order to keep up with the others, I have to get as flat as possible, which results in a miniscule speed difference, but holding the position for five minutes is enough to gain about 50 meters with the pack. It’s a painful reality, but the option to give the throttle a quick squirt to catch-up with the group is not there when everyone is flat-out all the time.
Peter buzzes back and forth on his Yamaha FJR1300 with annoying ease, but it’s good to have someone there who can keep an eye on the back marker, to reduce the chance of losing a colleague.
At our next gas stop, Richard shows me how to position the Crampbuster so that it locks against the brake lever and holds the throttle wide open. In fact, now there’s no need to hold onto the bars at all, and I quickly learn to steer the Ruckus by my feet on the floorboard alone. This is a lifesaver as I can find more comfortable positions, thus helping to save my back.
15:00 hours (approx) (+ 10 hours, 5 mins, 400 kms) – Mexico, NY
We finally hit the town of Mexico, NY, which is roughly also the halfway point. It’s been 10 hours so far and the loss of time on the ferries, and me having to fill in a visa/waiver at the border, has reduced our average speed to 40 km/h, projected arrival time now a very painful 1:00 am, And that’s assuming that we can even sustain this pace – fatigue now becoming a big factor.
But spirits are still high, boosted by the fact that we’ve just joined Hwy 104, which swings us due west – the head-wind changing to a much less troublesome side-wind. Traffic starts to pick up and we’re forced to ride mostly on the hard shoulder as many cars and trucks seem to have great difficulty deciding when to try and pass a group of scooters. Oddly, they seem to hang back during the long straight bits and then panic-squirt by as soon as a corner comes and everything tightens up.
We break the boredom with the occasional dual – one Ruckus slowly creeping up on the other by drafting it, the lead Ruckus blocking when the plot is discovered (click here for a re-enactment performed on a private closed circuit at great expense to CMG – movie by Peter Hoogeveen).
17:00 hours (+ 12 hours, 5 mins, 485 kms) – somewhere near Sodus, NY
A quick calculation shows that we’ve almost done 500 km, and I muse that the remaining 300 km could be done in … 6 hours? Bobb lights up another cigarette and brings my optimism back to reality with a more realistic 7 – 8 hours.It’s now been 12 hours since we left Toronto and I’m starting to feel my first signs of real fatigue. It seems like a good point to grab dinner and take a much-needed break, so we peel off into a Burger King – fast food for a slow group.
I hate him.
18:00 hours (+ 13 hours, 5 mins, 510 kms) – Around Rochester, NY
As we entered Rochester, the 104 got noticeably bigger and without announcement turned into Expressway. Although the map warned of this impending problem, Bobb seemed to think it was going to be a minor blip on an otherwise excellent route.
Panic braking and last minute swerves of the cars and trucks behind us seemed to play out in slow motion, as Bobb on his C70 lead the way as the gallant four rode into the Valley of Death. It’s not helped by misleading signs, suggesting that you have to be in the middle lane in order to stay on the 104. Bobb follows said signage, but the rest of us refuse to follow and stay in the relatively safety of the slow (ish) lane and observe the mayhem occurring directly behind Bobb.
It was a relatively short, white-knuckled experience, and a post Rochester gas-stop was full of tales of close misses and stern looks at Bobb, who had been oblivious to the chaos unfolding behind him.
21:00 hours (+ 16 hours, 5 mins, 630 kms) – Wrights Corner, NY
The last 3 hours of the 104 have proven to be quite pleasant – with little to no traffic to make dodgy passing maneuvers. But post-dinner fatigue has set in, my limbs are aching and my body is burning with the buzz of exhaustion. Dark clouds ahead block the glare of the setting sun, but also warn of impending wetness.
We are now within 40 kms of the Canadian border and at our last gas stop of the US part of the trip. It’s dark, the heavens have just opened, and Bobb’s bike is refusing to start again. We’re joking around about having to leave him there, but there’s also the reality that that is exactly what we might have to do.
It’s still not starting and making no sounds that it might either. I remember an old mechanic’s trick, pull the plug-cap off just a tad, and with the next kick we’re back in action. Relieved at not having to make the tough decision, we depart the dryness of the canopy and into the saturated darkness.
The hour ride to the border is horrible. My glasses fog up, traffic cuts too close when passing and my whole body is starting to vibrate from fatigue. My jacket starts to leak, and in pulling over I manage to split the group, Bobb and Richard carrying on oblivious. Peter zooms ahead to catch them but it’s only chance that we meet up again half and hour later, just shy of the border.
22:30 hours (+ 17 hours, 35 mins, 665 kms) – Canadian Border, Niagara Falls, On
Canada! Thank god.
The rain is subsiding as we enter the chaos of Niagara Falls and spend the next half hour getting lost down side roads, sidewalks and the occasional grassy verge. Bobb seems to be totally lost but doesn’t want to admit it. I’m getting frustrated but it’s unfair to vent on the man who has so far done a stellar job of getting us around the lake … Rochester expressway not included.
We eventually stop to ask directions and find that we’re on the right road – just going in the wrong direction. How CMG.
23:00 – 01:00 hours (+ 18 – 20 hours, 5 mins) – Niagara Escarpment, On
It’s a long, hard slog along highway 20 across the top of the Niagara Escarpment. It’s also cold as the ambient temperature tumbles. We’re damp, very tired, and the end is getting close enough that frustration at its unavailability is starting to gnaw. This is the low point of the trip.
I had been following a rather contorted-looking Mr. Seck, who was transfixed on the road ahead, I was worried that he was starting to shut down. Although it would be a shame to call it quits at this point and check into a motel, the risk of hypothermia is real and it would be better to try and fail in one piece, than to carry on and risk life and limb.
I pull alongside him (a 3 minute, hunched-up task) and get his attention with a ‘thumbs-up’ question sign. He comes out of his fixation, absorbs my intent and returns my thumbs-up with a smile. Assured that we can keep going, I drop back and tuck in.
01:00 hours (+ 20 hours, 5 mins, 730 kms) – Tim Horton’s, Hamilton Mountain, On
Just before the descent off Hamilton Mountain, we spot the warm light of a Tim Horton’s and veer off for a coffee and an extended period with the washroom’s hot-air dryer.
My whole being is begging to lie down, never mind get up and back out into the darkness. Even Gary, who up until now had been the spirit of enthusiasm and happiness, was starting to look a little ragged.
It’s now 1:30 a.m. and although we’re only about 80 km from home, the thought of another 1 1/2 hours is agonizing. I grab a pile of newspapers and stuff them down the front of my jacket in a desperate attempt to quell the cold.
01:30 – 03:00 hours (+ 21 1/2 – 22 hours, 5 mins) – Lakeshore Blvd, GTA
We hit the long descent of Hamilton Mountain at full throttle and the Ruckus’s speedo satisfyingly goes off the end of the scale. Fantasies of being in a warm car, blasting along the QEW enter my mind. Even the Skyway Bridge is off limits, and we meander down deserted service roads and cross under the Skyway via a rusting lift-bridge.
We’re back on Highway 2/Lakeshore Blvd at full speed. We’ve found some second, third, fourth wind as we knock off the last few km with nary a red light to impede progress. Although I’m dying for a pee, there’s no stopping now as we sense the end is nigh.
Peter peels off for a warm bed at his folks in Etobicoke, and we wave a hearty goodbye to an unexpected but most welcome overseer.
As the city of Toronto comes into view ahead of us, the pain diminishes and exhilaration takes over. We’re now blasting down the Indy-equipped Exhibition Place stretch of the Lakeshore, stands paying empty witness to the triumphant returning mad bastards.
03:00 hours (+ 22 hours, 5 mins, 808 kms) – Bathurst Street, Toronto, On
The familiar turn off debacle from Lakeshore to Bathurst is finally upon us and we’re in joyous mood as we blast north, and then west onto College. Before us are the lights of Motoretta. Here was victory and at exactly 03:10 hours, four very tired scooterists pull onto the sidewalk, turn of their faithful steeds and, well, grin.
It had taken a massive 22 hours and 15 minutes, averaging a painful 36.4 km/h. With a bit more discipline and a more efficient route out of Toronto and through Niagara Falls, we could maybe have cut a couple of hours off that. But we’d done it and within the allotted 24 hours to boot. Besides, the 22 hour 15 minute record is not bad for a first attempt.
Maybe we can beat it at next year’s Mad Bastard Scooter Rally? We’ve got a whole year in which to recover!
CMG MAD BASTARD SCOOTER RALLY AWARDS NIGHT!
554 College Street
August 3rd, 2004, from 7-9pm,
Slide show and awards presentation (1000 Loonies) at 8pm. Space will be limited to how many we can fit inside!
Rally bikes will be on display. Mad Bastards Rally participants will also be there sampling refreshments. Bobb will likely greet you at the door, because you can’t smoke inside…
CMG Pub night to follow someplace in the neighbourhood.
Air Hawk Comfort Seating for Mr. Seck’s padded derriere helper.
Motoretta Scooters (554 College St, Toronto) for sponsoring the event and Jeremy for coming in to open the shop for us at a most ungodly hour.
Honda Canada for supplying the three Ruckus’s (Rucki?).
Bobb Todd for planning the route and inflicting the endurance rider ethos on us all when all we wanted to do was stop and sleep.